BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) – This winter season has brought a few storms to the Twin Tiers, some of which dropped feet (plural) of snow across the region. This weather can make travel difficult and dangerous on the roadways, and crews work hundreds of hours to try and make the roads traversable for us all.
There is another band of crewmembers that work tirelessly to ensure safe travel, however, their focus is on air travel rather than the roadways. The maintenance crew at the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport throughout this winter have put in hundreds of hours to make sure aircraft can take off, fly, and land safely.
18 Storm Team Meteorologist, Austin Evans, took a trip to KELM and met up with Ernie Evans (no relation) who is on the airport maintenance crew. The job they do is time-consuming and challenging, but the results are worth the effort. “From the parking spaces from the commercial aircraft, we cleaned up our runway six to four inches of that takes away alpha.” Said Ernie regarding what the crew cleaned earlier on Friday.
Ernie Evans told us that they can clear an inch of snow off the runways and taxiways in a couple of hours when manpower is at its fullest, KELM is home to over 2.5 miles of runway alone. To clear the entire airfield of one inch of snow, would take about 12 hours, according to Ernie. He didn’t tell us how long it took to clear the snow from the December 16th/17th snowstorm, but you could probably imagine it took a long time to clear 20 inches.
To do this job, the crew uses multiple trucks of varying sizes and capabilities. The truck Austin rode on today was a combination plow, broom, and blower. The cost of the truck brand new approaches one million dollars, but in this situation, paying good money for machines that work well is not an issue.
Another process that ensures safe air travel during the winter is de-icing the aircraft. Now, the County employees are not in charge of the de-icing process. An Allegiant aircraft was being de-iced during Austin’s time there by Allegiant employees, they use a solution that is sprayed all over the aircraft that melts ice build-up. The craft must take off within a rather small time frame after being de-iced. Ice on aircraft is a problem at all times of the year, but especially during the winter. It is heavy and can cause significant issues for the aircraft during its use.
Ernie Evans is quite proud of his and his crew’s work, the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport has not seen much of a shutdown despite rough winter conditions. “We have the same airfield as larger airports and the same amount of snow to move. We do a heck of a job so we stay open when other area airports are closed.” Said Ernie.